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With Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature on Oct. 1, the state lost its last board of aldermen, but Melrose gained a City Council and began a new chapter in its political history.
Gov. Baker signed a bill approving revisions to Melrose’s city charter that changed the name of the city’s legislative body. As other cities have made the same change in recent years, Melrose became the last community in Massachusetts with a board of aldermen. (Individual alderman can still be found in Woburn, but they serve on the Woburn City Council.)
The term “alderman” dates to the 12th century or earlier, and derives from the Old English word “ealdorman,” or “old man.” In recent years, communities have been turning away from the title to reflect the gender diversity of its elected officials.
Melrose initially considered the change several years ago, but the effort failed. This past spring, the Melrose Board of Aldermen voted to petition the Legislature for the change.
One of the effort’s main proponents, Jen Lemmerman, stepped down from the board just days before the change took effect. After her departure, Scott Forbes became Melrose’s first-ever City Council president.
The state approval came in time for the city’s printing of ballots for its Nov. 5 election, said City Clerk Amy Kamosa.
Melrose employees quickly began the process of changing references on the city’s website and in its documentation, and the city has started taking down some aldermen-specific signs. Overall, the new identity has taken hold fairly quickly, Kamosa said.
“I think people have adapted to the change pretty well,” Kamosa said. “Though we all slip up from time to time.”
Because many city records are electronic, employees have been able to swap many references using a computer search-and-replace function, Kamosa said. Other changes take longer. Kamosa said the city will work with an outside vendor to help update all of its ordinances.
“It’s a pretty significant change,” Kamosa said.
The city clerk has also asked Melrose employees to be on the lookout for any other alderman references they encounter in their workdays, so that those can be updated as well.